When my eldest son was not quite 3 years old, we took him to his first movie in a theater. The film was “A Bug’s Life,” and we were really excited for him. After all, the kid loved bugs, he loved popcorn and he loved all of the Disney movies he had seen at home. What could go wrong?
The trouble started when the lights dimmed. He was a little afraid of the darkness and the loud previews, and he was barely heavy enough to hold the folding seat down when he sat on it. But before long, he was comfortable enough to start roaming. He would wander a few empty seats away, then come back and then do it again.
As the adults got engrossed in the movie, we barely noticed as he continued this routine, until suddenly we heard a loud whisper: “Mommy! I STUCK!”
And sure enough, there he was, standing three seats away with the seat folded up around him, his legs stuck between the seatback and the fold-up bottom. He started to cry, loudly, as I tried to yank him up and out from above, while my husband tried to unwedge his chubby little legs from below. Ushers came running with their flashlights, and I was certain we were just 60 seconds away from the fire department showing up.
Somehow we managed to extricate him, and came to the important realization that at age 3, he was simply too young to handle the movie theater experience. However, the experience of seeing a film in a public place did serve as an introduction so that he (and we) would know what to expect when we finally got brave enough to take him back to the theater many months later.
Introducing your child to performances in a public place, whether it be a movie, a concert, a ballet or a puppet show, will teach them proper performance etiquette and, hopefully, foster an appreciation for the performing arts.
If you want to start with the big screen, the seventh annual Bill Welch Memorial Saturday Morning Cartoons series at The State Theatre is great because it features fun Looney Tunes cartoons the perfect length for child attention spans, and it is free. The series runs at 10 a.m. Saturdays through Dec. 21.
If you are ready to expose your child to some live theater for the first time, Singing OnStage Studios offers the perfect introduction. In December, Singing OnStage will present several shows featuring kids from age 4 through high school. This season’s shows include Disney’s “Mulan Jr.,” Disney’s “Aladdin Kids,” “Guys and Dolls Jr.” and more. Watching their peer group on the stage helps to capture children’s attention, and the tickets are not expensive. Visit singingonstage.com for details.
If your kids are inspired after watching one of these performances, they can sign up for spring classes by calling 814-360-9761.
For live theater on a larger scale, The State Theatre will be hosting “Scrooge!” The musical presented by FUSE Productions Dec. 13 through 15. We saw this production last year, and it was fabulous. It is certain to put people of all ages into the holiday spirit. For information on all State Theatre shows, visit www.thestatetheatre.org.
Attending a ballet can be a tough sell to a child who has never danced, but children will be enthralled by the magical world of toy soldiers and sugar plum fairies when The Ballet Theatre of Central PA performs “The Nutcracker” at Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium on Dec. 14 and 15. Call 1-800-ARTS-TIX for tickets.
Looking ahead, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” will be at Eisenhower Auditorium for two nights, Feb. 25 and 26. This is not an inexpensive ticket, so you’ll want to make sure your child is ready for the whole theater experience — which is why practicing in movie theaters and more casual settings will pay off.
Karen Walker is managing partner for www.4KidsinPA.com. She lives in State College with her husband and two boys.